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grammar. At this I was so grieved, and conceived so strong a disgust, that I exchanged the feelings which I have described for groans and sadness; for it cannot be that the praises of Jupiter and the praises of Christ should proceed from the same mouth. Consider, yourself, how sad and wicked a thing it is (quam grave nefandumque sit) for a bishop to sing what would be unfit for a religious layman; and although my most dear son, Candidus, the priest, who came afterwards, being strictly examined as to this matter, denied it, and endeavoured to excuse you, yet my mind is not satisfied. For as it is horrible that such a thing should be told of a priest, (execrabile est hoc de sacerdote enarrari,) so should the investigation of its truth or falsehood be strict in proportion. If, therefore, the information which I have received shall hereafter be shewn to be false, and it shall appear that you are not studying trifles and secular literature, I shall give thanks to God, who has not suffered your mind to be polluted with the blasphemous praises of the wicked, and we shall then confer, safely and without hesitation, on the subject of your requests.”+
Our countryman, Alcwin, was probably born about the year 735, devoted to the church as soon as he was weaned, and brought up in it. His biographer, who was his contemporary, or within a few years of him, tells us that, when a child, he frequented the daily services of the church, but was apt to neglect those which were performed in the night. When he was about eleven years old, it happened that a lay-brother who inhabited a cellf belonging to the monastery, was one day, by some accident, deprived of his usual companions, and petitioned the schoolmas
say, “ teach Grammar” though it is a very absurd translation of grammaticam exponere. The reader who does not require such an explanation will, I hope, excuse my saying, for the sake of others, that the “ ars grammatica” comprehended something much beyond what the words would now suggest. Indeed, they might, perhaps, be more properly translated “classical,” or, what is the same thing, “ profane literature.” The Grammaticus was, as his name imported, a man of letters—those letters, however, to borrow the words of Augustine, “non quas primi magistri, sed quas docent qui grammatici vocantur."— Confess. L. I. c. xii. How much those who lived in the dark ages knew of such literature, people may dispute; and therefore, as I know of no other alternative, I prefer using the word “grammar," though incorrect, to the appearance of exaggerating their knowledge, until I can shew, as I hope to do, that they were not so entirely ignorant of the classics as some have supposed.
+ Lib. IX. Ep. xlviii. 1 These cells were little establishments which rose up like offsets round monasteries, and properly consisted of a few (perhaps from two to half-a-dozen) monks placed there by the superiors of the monastery, and living under its rule, either that they might be on the spot for the protection and cultivation of property belonging to the monastery-or because they desired to lead a more solitary life than they could do in the monastery,--or because applications for admissions were so numerous, that in order to admit those who applied it was necessary that some of the older monks should swarm out, or because those who had given the property had made it a condition that monks should be settled on the spot. The reader will imagine that, if not so originally (as in most cases it was) the cell generally become a farm; and often the oratory grew into a church, a monastery, a town, &c.
ter of the monastery that one of the boys might come up and sleep there that night; being, perhaps, afraid to pass the hours of darkness alone. Alcwin was sent, and they retired to rest; and when, about cock-crowing, they were waked by the signal for service, the rustic monk only turned in bed, and went to sleep again. Not so Alcwin ; who soon perceived, with horror and astonishinent, that the room was full of dæmons. They surrounded the bed of the sleeping rustic, and cried—“You sleep well, brother !” He woke immediately, and they repeated their salutation. “Why,” they added, “ do you alone lie snoring here, while all your brethren are watching in the church ?” Quid multa ? says the historian; and indeed everybody may guess what ensued --they gave him an awful drubbing, which, we are told, was not only very beneficial to him, but was matter of warning and rejoicing (cautelam et canticum) to others. In the meantime, poor Alcwin, as he afterwards related, lay trembling, under the persuasion that his turn would come next; and said in his inmost heart _“O Lord Jesus, if thou wilt deliver me from their bloody hands, and afterwards I am negligent of the vigils of thy church and of the service of lauds, and continue to love Virgil more than the melody of the Psalms, then may I undergo such correction; only I earnestly pray that thou wouldest now deliver me.” Alcwin escaped; but in order to impress it on his memory, his biographer says, he was subjected to some farther alarm. The dæmons, having finished the castigation of his companion, looked about them and found the boy, completely covered up in his bedclothes, panting and almost senseless. « Who is the other that sleeps in the house?” said the chief of the dæmons.“ The boy, Alcwin, is hidden in that bed,” replied the others. Finding that he was discovered, his suppressed grief and horror burst forth in tears and screaming. His persecutors being restrained from executing all that their cruelty would have desired, began to consult together. An unfortunate hiatus in the MS. prevents us from knowing all that they said ; but it appears that they came to a resolution not to beat him, but to turn up the clothes at the bottom of the bed and cut his corns, by way of making him remember his promise.* Already were the clothes thrown back, when Alcwin jumped up, crossed himself, and sung the twelfth Psalm with all his might: the dæmons vanished, and he and his companion set off to the church for safety.t Some readers will perhaps doubt whether all the monks were in the church during this scene; but, without arguing on the dæmonology of the story, I quote it to shew the nature of the sin which lay on the child's As the passage now stands it is—“Non istum verberibus, quia rudis adhuc est,
pedum tantum, in quibus duritia inest calli, tonsione cultelli castigemus, et emendationem sponsionis nunc suæ confirmabimus.”
Mab. A.S.O.B., tom. v., p. 140.
acris . . ::
conscience, when he thought that he was in the hands of devils. He was, as his biographer had before said, even at that early age, “ Virgilii amplius quum Psalmorum amator;” but he received a lesson which he never forgot. Speaking of him in after life, and when he had become celebrated as a teacher, his biographer says—“This man of God had, when he was young, read the books of the ancient philosophers, and the lies of Virgil, which he did not wish now to hear, or desire that his disciples should read. "The sacred poets,' said he, are sufficient for you, and there is no reason why you should be polluted with the impure eloquence of Virgil's language.
' Which precept, old Sigulphus endeavoured secretly to disobey, and for so doing he was afterwards publicly brought to shame. For, calling his sons, Adalbert and Aldric, whom he was then bringing up, be ordered them to read Virgil with him in the most secret manner, forbidding them to let any one know of it, lest it should come to the knowledge of Father Alcwin. Alcwin, however, calling him to him in his usual manner, said — Where do you come from, Virgiliane? and why have you begun and designed, contrary to my will and advice, and even without my knowledge, to read Virgil ? Sigulfus, throwing himself at his feet, and having confessed that he had acted inost foolishly, humbly did penance ; which satisfaction the indulgent father, after rebuking him, kindly received, admonishing him not to do so any more. The worthy man of God, Alderic, who is still alive and an abbot, declares that neither he nor Adalbert had divulged the matter to any one ; but had, all the time, as they were directed, kept it secret from every body."*
Passing over about a century, we are told by the biographer of Odo, Abbot of Clugni (who lived until 942), that he was so seduced by the love of knowledge, that he was led to employ himself with the vanities of the poets, and resolved to read the works of Virgil regularly through. On the following night, however, he saw in a dream a large vase, of marvellous external beauty, but filled with innumerable serpents, who, springing forth, twined about him, but without doing hiin any injury. The holy man, waking, and prudently considering the vision, took the serpents to mean the figments of the poets, and the vase to represent Virgil's book, which was painted outwardly with worldly eloquence, but internally defiled with the vanity of impure meaning. From thenceforward, renouncing Virgil and his pomps, and keeping the poets out of his chamber, he sought his nourishment from the sacred writings.”+
After another century—that is, about the middle of the
Mab. A.S.O.B., tom. V., p. 149.
+ Mab. ubi. sup., tom. vii., p. 187.
eleventh-we find Petrus Damianus blaming those monks “ who go after the common herd of grammarians (grammaticorum vulgus), who, leaving spiritual studies, covet to learn the vanities of earthly science; that is, making light of the Rule of St. Benedict, they love to give themselves up to the Rules of Donatus;"* and, very near the same time, one Archbishop Lanfranc wrote to Domnoaldus—“ You have sent me some questions respecting secular literature for solution ; but it is unbecoming the episcopal function to be occupied in such studies. Formerly, I spent the days of my youth in such things; but on taking the pastoral office I determined to renounce them.”+ His contemporary, Geronius, abbot at Centule, was (his biographer tells us) in his youth accustomed to read the heathen poets; and had nearly fallen into the error of practising what he read.”I
Honorius (about 1120), or whoever was the author of the Gemma Animæ, says—"It grieves me when I consider in my mind the number of persons who, having lost their senses, are not ashamed to give their utmost labour to the investigation of the abominable figments of the poets, and the captious arguments of the philosophers, (which are wont inextricably to bind the mind that is drawn away from God in the bonds of vices,) and to be ignorant of the Christian profession, whereby the soul may come to reign everlastingly with God. As it is the height of madness to be anxious to learn the laws of an usurper, and to be ignorant of the edicts of the lawful sovereign. Moreover, how is the soul profited by the strife of Hector, or the argumentation of Plato, or the poems of Virgil, or the elegies of Ovid, who now, with their like, are gnashing their teeth in the prison of the infernal Babylon, under the cruel tyranny of Pluto?' But the wisdom of God puts the brightest honour on him who, investigating the deeds and writings of the apostles, has his mind continually employed on those whom no one doubts to be now reigning in the palace of the heavenly Jerusalem, with the King of Glory." Let me add an extract from the works of a contemporary, whose name is too well known, and whose words are worth copying, because he was quite a march-of-intellect man. Peter Abelard, after quoting the statements of Jerome, and saying that, from the injunction laid
Ap. Mab., Ibid., Sæc. III., P. I., Præf. No 42, p. xvii.
+ Ibid. Sed, ut fieri solet, cum adolescens Grammaticæ operam daret, et patulo sensu ipsorum jam carminum vim perpenderet, animadvertitque inter ea quædam, quorum omnis intentio hæc est, ut aut expletas luxurias referant, aut quomodo quis explere voluerit, vel explere potuerit recenseant: et dum talium assidua meditatione polluitur juvenis mens casta, tum juvenili fervore, tum turpium verborum auditione, maxime vero diaboli instinctu ad hoc ccepit impelli, ut ea faceret quæ tantorum Poetarum æstimabat narratione celebrari.”- Chron. Centuien. ap. Dach. Spicil., ii. 338.
§ Prol. Bib. Pet., tom. X., p. 1179.
on bim, some persons gathered that it was unlawful to read any secular books, adds, "I conceive, however, that reading in any of the arts is not forbidden to a religious man ; unless it may be that by it his greater usefulness may be hindered ; and we must do in this as we know must be done in some other good thingsnamely, the less must sometimes be intermitted, or altogether given up, for the sake of greater. For when there is no falsehood in the doctrine, no impropriety in the language, some utility in the knowledge, who is to be blamed for learning or teaching these things ? unless because, as I have already said, some greater good be neglected or omitted ; for no man can say that knowledge is, strictly speaking, evil. But how greatly this may be done to our condemnation and confusion every reflecting person may see; since we are not only told that the mouth that belieth slayeth the soul' (Wisd. i. 11), but also that an account will be required of every idle word. If a Christian chooses to read for critical knowledge of phrases and forms of speech, may he not do this sufficiently without studying the figments of the poets and foolish tales? What kind of phraseology, what ornament of language is there, which the phrase of scripture does not supply? Full as it is of enigmatical allegories, and abounding as it does with mystical language, what elegances of speech are there which may not be learned from the mother tongue, Hebrew ? especially when it appears that the common people of Palestine were so accustomed to parables, that it behoved the Lord Jesus to address them in that way when he preached the Gospel to them. What dainty can be wanting at the spiritual table of the Lord,—that is, the Sacred Scripture—wherein, according to Gregory, both the elephant may swim and the lamb may walk ?” Then, after proceeding to shew that as much, and as good, language as can be wanted, may
be had from Jerome, Augustine, Cyprian, and other Christian writers, he says—“Why then do not the bishops and doctors of the Christian religion expel from the city of God, those poets whom Plato forbade to enter into his city of the world ?"*
I might go on with extracts of this kind until we should come again to De Rancé ; but I am afraid that the reader may think that I have already cited more testimonies than enough on this point. Should there, however, be anything like tautology in them, I beg him to remember that my object in bringing them forward is to describe and illustrate a feeling which existed very generally in the Christian church before, and through, and after, the Dark Ages. That there were, even in those days, reading men, I hope to shew; and that they did not give the first place to classical or scientific learning I allow, though I cannot admit
• Theol. Christ. Lib. II., p. Mart. v., 1238. VOL. IX.-Jan. 1836.